Veterans in Danger of Being Released
Although Taylor’s current contract is not set to expire until the spring of 2015, he could fall victim to Pittsburgh’s current cap situation if he is unwilling to restructure his deal when the 2013 campaign comes to a close.
To be fair to Taylor, he is still the best and most experienced cornerback on Pittsburgh’s roster right now. 2013 will be Ike’s ninth year as a starter, and he has quietly emerged as one of the league’s most consistent and effective cornerbacks over the last decade (save for the playoff meltdown in Denver).
Taylor also understands the ins and outs of LeBeau’s defensive scheme, and his presence should be helpful for younger the players on the roster like Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, Josh Victorian, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Justin King, and rookie 5th round pick Terry Hawthorne. Heck, I still maintain that Taylor has enough “good football” left in him to play and play effectively through the duration of his current deal.
Ike’s base salary for 2014 is $7 million dollars, and he could be released if he is unwilling to restructure the final year of his deal. While it is not a large amount of money (by N.F.L.-standards), it is a pretty significant chunk of change for a franchise looking to get younger and trying to shed payroll. Thus, Colbert & Co. could deem him expendable in a cap-saving move next spring if the much younger depth behind him are ready to contribute and take their lumps in 2014.
At least to me, Troy Polamalu is one of the greatest players in Pittsburgh’s illustrious history. He has been one of a select few players (Ed Reed, Bob Sanders, and himself) to revolutionize the safety position over the last decade, and I will forever tip my cap to Colbert & Co. for possessing the stones to move up 11 spots to select Troy in the 1st round of the 2003 draft.
Sadly, Polamalu has just been too injury-prone over the last few years, and a career of hard-nosed football has taken its toll on the future Hall of Famer. Since the start of the 2009 season, Polamalu has missed a total of 22 regular season games, was absent for a total of nine last year, and definitely did not look like his old “Flyin’ Hawaiian” self.
2013 will mark Polamalu’s 11th season in the league, and the veteran safety just turned 32 last month. Although Troy’s contract is set to expire in the spring of 2015, he could be deemed expendable if Pittsburgh’s brass elect not to restructure or pay him the $8.25 million he is set to earn as a base salary in 2014.
It will definitely be a watershed moment when Troy is no longer a member of the Steelers, and I hope that he can stay healthy enough to finish his current deal and Colbert & Co. can decide his fate with the franchise from there. Sadly, if the former Trojan is unable to stay on the field consistently, his exit from Pittsburgh might happen sooner than most think.
While Polamalu and Taylor have replacements in line to take over for when they eventually depart, there is no such “transition strategy” in place behind Larry Foote at inside linebacker. Granted, I completely believe that Lawrence Timmons would be a perfect replacement for Foote at the “buck” spot one day. Yet there is basically nobody with any experience behind Timmons who can assume his old “mack” spot if he transitions to the strong-side to take over for Foote.
To his credit, Foote played decent last year in his first full season starting at the “buck” position. The then-11 year veteran led Pittsburgh in tackles (113) and recorded 4.0 sacks, forced 2 fumbles and recovered 2 as well. Larry however struggled mightily when he was forced to play in space, his lack of speed was exposed, and he was abused mercilessly at times in the passing game.
As I stated before though, Foote has the luxury of a lack of experience behind him. And of him, Taylor, and Polamalu, he is probably the least likely of the three to be released before the 2014 season. In fact, it would not shock me in the least if Foote is able to stick around for the duration of the 3-year deal he signed a couple of months ago due to the lack of depth at the position. Nevertheless, if Vince Williams or another young player can prove to be a capable stand-in for Larry, the veteran could be shown the door before his contract expires.
I understand that it might be a little bit early to discuss what could happen when next March is upon us. Yet there will be a number of key players who are set to either leave as free agents, allowed to test the free agent market and walk, or could be in significant danger of being released before their contracts expire.
I hate to be a “Negative Nancy” right now, Steelers fans. I really do. But I do not believe that the “worst” of this current “rebuilding process” is over for this franchise in terms of personnel losses. In fact, next offseason’s potential veteran “roster purge” could make the 2012 and 2013 versions look like “cake-walks.”
If the younger players can prove themselves as adequate long-term replacements over the next couple of years though, 2014 should serve to be the final “offseason of hell” for Pittsburgh’s brass to confront. The only “albatross” of a contract that will weigh them down salary-cap-wise will be LaMarr Woodley’s, and the Steelers will be in even better shape to contend and rebuild once that over-paid joke is gone in 2017.
For now though, the only thing that we can do as fans is play the “waiting game” while the Steelers rebuild.
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Players Stats Provided By: ESPN.com
Players Contract Info. Provided By: Spotrac.com